Volunteers working on the International Citizen Service (ICS) in Tanzania have been working with community members in the village of Mgongo to adopt good sanitation practices such as washing their hands after using the toilet and before preparing food and to share messages around the importance of treating water before use.
After conducting research in households, schools, with staff at a health clinic and a women’s group, the teams found that waterborne illnesses such as diarrhoea were prevalent in every part of the village and a large percentage of the local community did not treat their water before use. The team found that there was a lack of awareness around the dangers of drinking and using untreated water.
The volunteers ran awareness-raising campaigns across the village, targeting schools, pregnancy and health clinics, women’s groups, local households and Mgongo hospital.
Together with the local project partners, they provided access to clean and safe water through a construction project, a water distribution system. They built demonstration rocket stoves and encouraged community members to build them in their own homes, which would enable people to boil their water before use. They ran community action days on International Women’s Day, World Water Day and World Health Day to gather and unite the community and use the opportunity to emphasise the importance of hand-washing, sanitary defecation practices, and the health benefits of boiling water before consumption.
The team made sure the community was involved at every level as they realised it was up to community members to motivate themselves and each other for the project to be sustainable and for people’s habits to change.
This was the third team to work with the community of Mgongo, and the results of the teams’ work over a one year period showed a significant decrease in the rate of people suffering from diarrhoea. Data collected from the hospital showed that, amongst 0-5 year olds, the number of sufferers decreased by 59.6% compared to a decrease of 9% for the same period the previous year. The hospital attributed these figures to the work of the groups in promoting positive water and sanitation practices. The data showed that the team’s message had resonated and people were adopting positive water and sanitation practices in a season traditionally associated with increased diarrhoea cases.
“We are so thankful for the hand washing facilities. That was our biggest problem in the hospital, it means a lot to us. Sometimes, members of the municipality come to the hospital for inspection and they ask us where are we washing our hands and we did not have the answer for that. We have shared our concerns with the district hospital but still we did not get a solution. Thank you so much, now we have hand washing facilities and you solved this problem.”
Ulumbi Richard – a Nurse from Mgongo Hospital